BBC RADIO SCOTLAND In Scotland, Northern England, Northern Ireland 92-95FM, 810 MW Or Radio Scotland is available UK wide through Sky Digital on channel 927 11.7975 GHz / H
Part 1: Tx: Sunday 25th June 2000 11:03-11:30 Rpt: Monday 26th June 2000 14:03-14:30 Rpt: Tuesday 27th June 2000 22:22:38-23:05
Part 2: Tx: Sunday 2nd July 2000 11:03-11:30 Rpt: Monday 3rd July 2000 14:03-14:30 Rpt: Tuesday 4th July 2000 22:22:38-23:05
MIDGE URE narrates the story of Glasgow's finest rocker, Alex Harvey, with archive audio of Alex Harvey being interviewed and performing, along with interviews from former "Sensational Alex Harvey Band" members like Zal Cleminson, Ted & Hugh McKenna, and Chris Glen. Other interviewees include ex-manager Eddie Tobin, ex-drummer in the Alex Harvey Soul Band George McGowan, fellow "Hair" cast member Richard O'Brien, their record producer Dave Batchelor, his widow Trudy, Billy Connolly, journalists Billy Sloan, Charles Shaar Murray and James McNair.
The story: The programme would tell the tale of Alex, from his rise from the gangs of the Gorbals to headlining gigs around the world. Nick-named the "Tommy Steele of Scotland" Alex would have reached retiral age of 65 in 2000, but retiring was something he was never likely to do. He died of a heart attack on a boat whilst on tour in 1982. It was the stage where Alex mixed his hard rock music with theatre to put on a show which lived up to the band's name The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
In 1950, aged 15, Alex Harvey left school and started on a musical path influenced by the American sounds of jazz and country and folk music like Woody Guthrie. He joined the Clyde River Jazz Band which later became the Kansas City Skiffle Band, who became stars of the new Scottish rock íní roll touring circuit. By the early 1960ís Alex had taken the lead position and with "The Alex Harvey Soul Band", played the Hamburg circuit, then making his first recording in 1964 for Polydor Records, which was a major achievement for a Scottish act.
Throughout the sixties Alex never had hits but earned the reputation as one of the most respected performers on the live scene. His brand of gutsy rock `n' roll was seen as only for the hardcore fans. In 1969 his brother Lesley was electrocuted on stage as he performed with his band Stone The Crows; we'll hear how this effected Alex. At one point he had put down the microphone and took up his guitar to join the pit band in the music "Hair", where he performed alongside Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O'Brien.
In 1971 Alex found himself back in Glasgow and without a band, when it was suggested he link up with Glasgow rock outfit Tear Gas, who already had two failed albums under their belt. It was the move he had been waiting for. Alex started to explore his on stage persona, jeans and the legendary black and white striped shirt with his band dressing accordingly. Guitarist Zal Cleminson dressed in a green leotard with a clown's face, and bassist Chris Glen in a blue teddy boy jumpsuit. The band used props, and played against a backdrop of a wall with Alex spray painting graffiti "Vambo Rools OK" on it. Later in the show during his classic theme song "Vambo Marble Eye" Alex would kick his way through the wall, and the crowd would erupt. The hard man imagery would follow Alex around and we'll hear the story of the day he accompanied his friend, Glasgow songwriter Frankie Miller, to the offices of an agent who owned Frankie's money; needless to say the money was duly paid. Eddie Tobin was Alex's tour manager for many years and recounts many such stories.
The seventies saw S.A.H.B. at their height. His albums like Next, The Impossible Dream, Tomorrow Belongs To Me, and their classic Live album which spawned his biggest hit single "Delilah". Members of SAHB Zal Cleminson, Hugh McKenna, Chris Glen, and Ted McKenna will join Midge Ure in giving an insight into the workings of the man who influenced a generation of Scottish pop stars. His influence as a musician was remarkable, but it was as showman that the likes of singer/songwriter Joe Jackson took his influence from, and his attitude that influenced punk bands like the Sex Pistols. Many say he was the original punk rocker.
Archive of Alex being interviewed will reveal his love for rock íní roll, as he demonstrates the impact rock `n' roll had on him when he first heard it. He also is responsible for one of the most bizarre record releases ever. In 1977 "Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster" was released on the budget label K-Tel. It consisted of interviews Alex made (mostly poorly recorded) with people who had witnessed the Loch Ness Monster; it was a concept which even the most diehard of fans had problems getting to grips with. We'll hear from the guest presenter on the record Richard O'Brien.
SAHB rested in 1977 when Alex was laid up with a bad back and the band released an album entitled "SAHB Without Alex" Alex appeared on the cover bound and gagged surrounded by his grinning backing band. SAHB released one more album "Rock Drill" , spilt and then Alex continued with the "New Alex Harvey Band" recording the critically acclaimed "The Mafia Stole My Guitar". This saw Alex return to the style of songs he did best the story song. This album featured a big band version of "Just A Gigolo", which was the style he started out singing 30 years earlier. His encore song was a bottom baring version of Irving Berlin's classic "Cheek to Cheek" and in fact, he appeared in the Glasgow bar "Shadows" guesting with the resident big band the "George McGowan Orchestra" a few weeks before he died. This impromptu gig saw him reunited with George McGowan, a drummer who he worked with in the late 50s in his Soul Band George will tell the story of his work with Alex and that unannounced final home gig.
A posthumous album "The Soldier On The Wall" was released in 1983, but didn't live up to his previous albums, perhaps his ever rock `n' roll lifestyle over the many years on the road had finally caught up with him.
His son and widow will also be interviewed as well as journalists Billy Sloan, Charles Shaar Murray, and James McNair, who will give their overview of the place Alex Harvey holds in the annals of Scottish pop and rock history. And who better to narrate the story, than one of Scotland's most successful artists Midge Ure, who was influenced by Alex's music and attitude.
Contact: Nick Low 0141-342-4959
VAMBO ROOLS OK!